CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Dale Jarrett called on NASCAR to require the use of head-and-neck restraints, saying Tuesday there is enough known about the benefits of the devices to warrant the order.
"At this stage, everybody needs to be wearing something," Jarrett said. "NASCAR should not be letting anyone get in a car without it."
Jarrett, the 1999 Winston Cup champion, said his stance on the devices has changed over the season. Although he started the year wearing a HANS device, he said he thought the use of such restraints should be a drivers' choice.
After studying the benefits of the devices -- which many believe could have prevented the skull fractures that killed four of five drivers over the past 17 months -- Jarrett said he changed his mind.
"We've looked at these things, we've learned what it does and we know it can save lives," he said. "It's time to stop playing around and get them on everybody."
Ricky Rudd said he agreed with his Robert Yates Racing teammate.
"I think NASCAR can make a statement, not just for its series but for all the smaller series that look up to it," said Rudd, who wears a Hutchens device. "There's a lot of young guys out there racing on local tracks who look up to Winston Cup and if they see all of us doing it, they might be inclined to start doing it themselves."
NASCAR president Mike Helton indicated Sunday the sanctioning body was moving toward requiring the devices, assuming research and development continues on them.
Tony Stewart was the only one of the 43 drivers in Sunday's race not to wear any type of restraint system. Stewart has cited discomfort and lingering questions about the devices for his reluctance to wear one, although he did don a Hutchens device in an August test to see if he could get used to it.
Barring a mandate, Helton said he could only try to educate Stewart on the benefits of wearing a device.
But Jarrett said that now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmy Spencer -- two of the Winston Cup series drivers most reluctant to wear a device -- have reconsidered, Stewart needs to as well.
"I don't know what Tony's story is, but if Dale Jr. and Jimmy Spencer can make it work, he can, too," Jarrett said. "There's two choices out there, the HANS and the Hutchens, they both work -- now make it work for you."
The head-and-neck restraint issue has picked up again since 25-year-old driver Blaise Alexander was killed in an Automobile Racing Club of America race at Lowe's Motor Speedway last week.
Alexander, who was buried Tuesday in Montoursville, Pa., was not wearing a restraint system when he was killed and doctors who treated him on the scene said his injuries appeared to be consistent with a skull fracture.
Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin also died from the same type of head injury. Tony Roper, killed during a Craftsman Truck Series race, died of a neck injury.
Jarrett, meanwhile, is also looking at other safety devices since he was injured two weeks ago in a wreck at Kansas Speedway. Jarrett suffered a concussion when his car hit the wall late in the race and said it happened because he hit the left side of his head on a bar inside his car.
The hit cracked his helmet behind the visor.
He experimented with a protective head rest during Sunday's race, but said the right side of it impaired his vision of other cars and he's still working with it.
He also has asked NASCAR to consider installing escape hatches in the top of the cars to provide a second way for drivers to get out.
Jarrett, one of the taller drivers on the circuit, said it's often difficult to climb out the driver's side window -- particularly after a left-side collision like the one he had at Kansas.
"Putting in roof hatches so we could get out of the top of the car would solve a lot of problems and NASCAR said it's looking into it," he said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.